Architecture

drive along Spain’s coast
modern curves and old designs
walls peppered with salt

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A Vacation Day

small mountains pounded by wind
for a million more years
than our Rockies,
we listen to the persistent slap
of waves coming in,
smashing into slate,
bubbling up along the beach,
a Mediterranean breeze
no competition
for howling Fourteeners’ gales

just like in Colorado,
only shrubbery will grow here,
yet it persists
beneath a blistering sun
that has taken a vacation day,
just as we do now

instead, sprinkles of rain
mock our first steps,
and we discover fluffy carrascos
and giant yucca-like palm bushes,
a chaparral setting with
soil colorado, tinted red,
the roots of our state
along the shores of this sea

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Direct Translation

I set my alarm for just after 8. It is almost laughable. 8!! I used to get up at 4:16. It is surreal to me now, not even in the realm of possibility. I need to finish grading these papers on Saturday morning (the real morning, not the Spaniard version) before we pick up our “free” weekend car.

The girls pop out of their rooms just after 9 (how I love these Persian blinds that block out all light). I am not finished yet, and they meander in and out of the living room eating Nutella-ridden bread, crumbs dripping onto the couch we’ll never be able to vacuum. Such a simple idea, isn’t it? A vacuum?

My world back home is seven hours away from waking, and I put sloppy grades on a few last papers for the job they pay me next to nothing for while they send emails about their latest advertising campaign and take money from the federal government to finance loans for students who will neither graduate nor pay them back, but that’s OK. Thank you, Phoenix, for funding the 54€ in gas, the uniforms that cost more than they’re worth at Corte Inglés, the place that wouldn’t take my American credit card when everywhere else it works just fine? The store that doesn’t have adjustable waist bands for my too-skinny girls, that doesn’t offer hangers but includes a post office, a ferreteria, a price that doubles for the same exact brand, same exact fucking skirt, so be sure you’re paying attention or you’ll get screwed? Oh… yes. THIS must be the store my Spaniards were talking about when they said clothes were expensive in Spain. I mean, Pepe Jeans and DKNY for toddlers???

But I digress. What is the point of this post? Ahh, yes. My suitcase. My bicycle. The items I paid a pretty penny for, the things I brought from America that I either regret or am forever thankful for. (Duh, the bike is on the forever thankful for list).

Why did I bring soap? Sweaters? Endless pairs of pants? Will I ever see anything but summer? We spent the day in our “free” car at the beach on October 6th!! Am I ever going to pull onto my legs the seven pairs of pants, the fall-to-the-floor skirts, the winter coat whose presence in my wardrobe is nothing but a harsh reminder of the snow in Denver that people keep posting about today?

Why did I not bring what I would need? Books for my girls. My LCD projector. My electric teapot. A driver’s license that works anywhere in the world? (oops… impossible) And today? Monistat.

To tag onto my realm of reality, yesterday’s post: Wal-mart, I miss you. Your $5.97 price for a three-day cure, your place on the shelf in the pharmacy section (holy fuck, I almost started typing that with an F! Spanglish is destroying my mind!!)

But no. It’s OK, I can do this. I can walk the two blocks to the Farmacia, green cross flashing almost every hour of the day (not Sunday, nor between 3-6, of course!!). I have iPhone translator ready! Am prepared to look for what it tells me. The phrase is memorized before I enter the tiny store, where I’m inundated with condoms, sex creams, and baby bottles, multivitamins for toddlers, all in the same section, of course. After a quick review of the this-is-no-Walgreens store, I face the facts: it’s going up to the counter or suffering weeks with an uncomfortable itch.

Wow. This blog is getting brutal.

It’s so simple, really! The phrase! Levadura crema anti hongos. She is young, just out of college, in her pretty white coat.”For your feet, or for your body?”

Shit. I’m screwed. There’s a possibility she thinks I have Athlete’s Foot. “Body!” I almost shout. (Do we need to specify which part?) She goes to the back and emerges with a small box of cream. Begins to announce the topical use on all parts of the body, and I hold my hand up. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is it. I need… I don’t know how to say it.” Some fast fingers later, Mr. iPhone translator fucks me over again. Is there no word for yeast in Spanish???

I type in yeast infection and all I get is a translation that basically says, infection of the cream to cure the infection?? I show her the screen, feeling sheepish. (It is only hours later, examining the Spanish directions for the cream, that I remember the Latin root, Candidas. Yay for etymology that doesn’t come through in moments of trepidation!). “Su traducción…” she begins, and, as I do as an ESL teacher, as I do every day in Spain, I think of a simpler way to say it. I type in vaginal infection, and… of course!! It comes right up, a direct translation, same fucking words and all??? “Infección vaginal?” Wow.

A grin on her face as she examines the screen I hold up in front of her, she pops in and out of the back, and I have two weeks of torture in front of me, no sex, no simple cure, no pulling off the shelf in Wal-mart my one night stand, my freedom handed over in less than six dollars. But at least I can say that I faced my fear, walked into the pharmacy, and translated all my doubts via iPhone into the everyday reality of my life. I am lost in translation, out for the count, ready to cash in my chips for all I didn’t pack, all the money I have taken advantage of for so long, that is now poured into the Spanish economy like blood bringing new life to a newborn, one I hold within my arms and nurse as I think of a new beginning to my life in this home that is my home and not my home.

Average Speed of Satisfaction

Today I had my first real bike ride since arriving in Spain. Yes, I have ridden my bike almost every day, but riding around this city is merely to save a few minutes of time, not for enjoyment. There are so many crosswalks to have to stop at, and the bike paths are on sidewalks full of pedestrians who refuse to get out of the way and almost seem to pride themselves, instead, on getting IN the way, so it’s not a fast-paced, Cherry-Creek-Bike-Path kind of experience. Not to mention if you ride on the side of the road you have to constantly slow down and look behind you as you pull around whatever random car that is double-parked in front of you.

I have come across a few “back roads” to get from one side of the city to the other in half the time, and I began my morning ride on one today, then riding along the harbor and heading towards the closest beach. It was a bit of a climb, and I wanted to take a back road, but missed it, and was stopping to check the map on my iPhone when two guys on mountain bikes cycled past me. Everyone here who has a bike has a mountain bike or a foldable bike. Today I learned why.

Though they were in front of me, I finally got to use my favorite cycling term of all time, “On your left!” as we pedaled up the hill (though I’m sure they didn’t understand my American-accented Spanish version of this phrase). Of course the two men on mountain bikes couldn’t keep pace with me!!

I reached the crest of the hill and stopped to take a few photos of the harbor, the mountains, and the Mediterranean. Not exactly the same views as home, but I think I’ll survive. 🙂

At last, just after the beach and having to ride through two tunnels (very frightening, as they were just wide enough for two cars, but as usual, anywhere outside of this city has ZERO traffic), I saw the back road I’d wanted to take that led to the top of the mountain bearing a castle… It was full of gravel two inches thick, and a passel of mountain biking men were making their way up the trail. It was the first moment in my bike-life where I was disappointed with my Fuji. Access denied!

Nevertheless, I continued down the main road, hoping to gather some other great views, only to be disappointed again by a fuel refinery whose smoke filled a large cove and choked me as I pedaled uphill.

Despite these two small disappointments, I felt amazing. Rather than averaging the Cartagena-city-limits speed of 8 mph, I was at least able to come out of my morning with a 13-mph (hey, I said mountains, remember??) average speed of satisfaction. I could actually feel my muscles tightening, my quads pulling themselves into a gratified smile. How could I have put this ride off for so long??? Oh wait… I was trying to adjust to this insane schedule they have here of staying up late and getting up just before work.

Well… they can put the girl in Spain, but they can’t take the Colorado out of the girl. I think it’s time to start setting my alarm so I can brighten my day with the beauty of actual cycling.

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Average Speed of Satisfaction

Today I had my first real bike ride since arriving in Spain. Yes, I have ridden my bike almost every day, but riding around this city is merely to save a few minutes of time, not for enjoyment. There are so many crosswalks to have to stop at, and the bike paths are on sidewalks full of pedestrians who refuse to get out of the way and almost seem to pride themselves, instead, on getting IN the way, so it’s not a fast-paced, Cherry-Creek-Bike-Path kind of experience. Not to mention if you ride on the side of the road you have to constantly slow down and look behind you as you pull around whatever random car that is double-parked in front of you.

I have come across a few “back roads” to get from one side of the city to the other in half the time, and I began my morning ride on one today, then riding along the harbor and heading towards the closest beach. It was a bit of a climb, and I wanted to take a back road, but missed it, and was stopping to check the map on my iPhone when two guys on mountain bikes cycled past me. Everyone here who has a bike has a mountain bike or a foldable bike. Today I learned why.

Though they were in front of me, I finally got to use my favorite cycling term of all time, “On your left!” as we pedaled up the hill (though I’m sure they didn’t understand my American-accented Spanish version of this phrase). Of course the two men on mountain bikes couldn’t keep pace with me!!

I reached the crest of the hill and stopped to take a few photos of the harbor, the mountains, and the Mediterranean. Not exactly the same views as home, but I think I’ll survive. 🙂

At last, just after the beach and having to ride through two tunnels (very frightening, as they were just wide enough for two cars, but as usual, anywhere outside of this city has ZERO traffic), I saw the back road I’d wanted to take that led to the top of the mountain bearing a castle… It was full of gravel two inches thick, and a passel of mountain biking men were making their way up the trail. It was the first moment in my bike-life where I was disappointed with my Fuji. Access denied!

Nevertheless, I continued down the main road, hoping to gather some other great views, only to be disappointed again by a fuel refinery whose smoke filled a large cove and choked me as I pedaled uphill.

Despite these two small disappointments, I felt amazing. Rather than averaging the Cartagena-city-limits speed of 8 mph, I was at least able to come out of my morning with a 13-mph (hey, I said mountains, remember??) average speed of satisfaction. I could actually feel my muscles tightening, my quads pulling themselves into a gratified smile. How could I have put this ride off for so long??? Oh wait… I was trying to adjust to this insane schedule they have here of staying up late and getting up just before work.

Well… they can put the girl in Spain, but they can’t take the Colorado out of the girl. I think it’s time to start setting my alarm so I can brighten my day with the beauty of actual cycling.

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In Four Days

sun shined on every moment
as we walked along the beach
(when life was not a beach)
money and bus schedules
weighing us under water

oblivious,
our girls swam all day,
mermaid Barbies in tow,
searching for seashells

when in one week we were filled
with a box full of activity
registering ourselves as residents
registering our girls for school
registering for a new life

this week we worked a different tack
searching for a new response
to a computer without Internet
phone conversations i couldn’t interpret
and hope for something better

in four days,
the sun sparkling on travertine tile,
the sun sparkling on long walks
between lorikeets
and Roman architecture,
we have moved from survivors
to healthily employed,
dream-fulfilled,
satisfied Spaniards!!